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Gary Usher’s Manchester restaurant Kala becomes the fastest funded restaurant project in the world


Nine months after he raised £50k in 59 minutes for new opening Pinion in Prescot on the crowdfunding platform Kickstarter, Gary Usher and his Elite Bistros group of restaurants last night launched a campaign to raise £100k in 100 hours to open Manchester city-centre restaurant, Kala.

Gary, known for his award-winning eateries including Hispi in Didsbury, Sticky Walnut in Chester and Wreckfish in Liverpool, admitted he “messed up the budget” for Kala, which is currently taking shape inside the former Whistles fashion shop on King Street.

But public support poured in, and in just the first three minutes of the link going live, 91 backers had raised £13k. With support from the likes of chef Tom Kerridge, the Kickstarter project raised £30k in 10 minutes, and £50k in half an hour.

With #Kala trending on Twitter, just 11 hours in 1100 people had backed the project sending the total to £100k. This makes it the fastest restaurant project to reach £100k in Kickstarter’s history.

With three days still to go, and money still coming in, the current total is topping £105,000.

“I am honestly struggling to get my head around last night,” said Gary.

“It’s not really about the money, it’s the people believing in what we’re trying to do at Elite Bistros. The support we have is always incredible and not just from those who pledge, but everyone who we work with on a daily basis.”

A video to support the Kickstarter was released at the weekend, where Gary showcases the current building site, and how the interiors are likely to look, including a main 55-cover dining space on the upper floor.

In the video, Gary explains why opening his latest restaurant on King Street is so significant for him.

“So 15 years ago I used to work on this street, and I feel pretty proud of what has turned around and what has happened in the past 15 years,” he said. “And this is the next one.”

He went on: “We’ve never been in this position before where we’ve started a project and run short. What are we going to do if we don’t raise the £100k on the crowdfund? My answer is I’m not sure really.”

Luckily for the chef, not meeting the target isn’t an issue following the outpouring of pledges from the public and support from the restaurant community.

After seeing Gary’s frank video on social media detailing the issues with Kala, chef patron of the two Michelin starred The Hand & Flowers, Tom Kerridge, offered to help them raise the money by holding guest chef nights at Didsbury’s Hispi on Monday 25th and Liverpool’s Wreckfish on Tuesday 26th March.

Opening in May, Kala will be a 55-cover restaurant serving breakfast, lunch and dinner with a separate 15-cover bar space available for customers to enjoy a drink, their take on British bar snacks or the a la carte menu.

Head chef, Zhelyazko Zhelyazkov, or ‘Jiji’, who has previously worked at the two Michelin Star Moor Hall and Raby Hunt, has created a menu of bistro style dishes, such as burrata, beef tartare, braised featherblade, a monkfish, spinach and tomato fondue, apple tart and crème caramel, as well as bread baked on-site and Elite Bistro’s famed truffle and parmesan chips.

The city-centre restaurant will also offer an all-day menu at the bar, featuring small, simple British dishes such as pigs head sausage roll and pickled eggs.

Gary is no stranger to crowdfunding. Following the success of Sticky Walnut in Hoole, Chester, he launched a crowdfunding campaign through Kickstarter and Twitter to open Burnt Truffle in Heswall on the Wirral which raised more than £100,000 thanks to 891 backers who made pledges of between £10 and £5000.

The chef and entrepreneur launched another Kickstarter crowd-funding campaign early in 2016 to open a third restaurant, Hispi, receiving nearly £60,000 in pledges, almost 20% more than the original target. High profile people in the food and restaurant industry backed the campaign including Neil Rankin, Angela Hartnett, Ashley Palmer-Watts and Jesse Dunford Wood.

A third crowdfunding campaign to open Wreckfish in Liverpool was a huge success. Over £200k was raised and Wreckfish opened in October 2017. Last year Pinion raised its £50k target in under an hour.

“We only realised a few weeks ago that we were going to need more money to open Kala and yet we have managed to raise this amount in such a short period of time,” said Gary.

“The sense of community we have at Elite Bistros is really special and something I never take for granted. The money means we can continue with the Kala build, and be open by May – and we really can’t wait.

“Manchester, we’ll see you soon.”

Kala will open on King Street in May 2019 and serve breakfast, lunch and dinner, seven days a week. The Kickstarter campaign finishes at 1am on Saturday 16th March, with tickets still available for the Tom Kerridge evenings. 


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